WINNIPEG — The rationing of Dustin Byfuglien’s minutes this week is not being passed off as some co-incidence.
The big Winnipeg Jets’ defenceman played a season-low 15 minutes, 55 seconds Thursday in a 4-1 loss in Montreal when coach Claude Noel moved him from forward back to defence during the game, then sat him on the bench for a long stretch to end the night.
Saturday, when the Jets rebounded to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 at the MTS Centre, Byfuglien’s minutes went up, but not by much.
He played regularly, but only 17:48, again well below his season average 24:22.
"It felt like I was sitting around a lot," Byfuglien said this morning after an optional skate at the MTS Centre. "It wasn’t my decision. It was theirs."
This morning, Noel didn’t plead ignorance on the matter, like he sometimes does on issues or injuries.
"Well, whatever," was his response to Byfuglien’s minutes. "It’s what we deemed he needed or we needed. We won the game.
"He didn’t need to play 30 to win or to lose. Charlie (Huddy, Jets assistant coach) is the one who managed the minutes with the defence.
"A lot of it’s dictated by a lot of different things. You’re trying to win the game, first of all. You do what you have to do. His play’s been so-so, so that’s how it goes."
Four times this season the Jets have used Byfuglien more than 28 minutes in a game. He still remains their highest-scoring defenceman, with 21 points.
The Jets will practise again Monday before meeting the Buffalo Sabres here Tuesday.